7 Ways to Boost Employee Morale This Holiday Season

If there was ever a year to keep morale high, it’s 2020.

During this global pandemic that continues to shut down businesses, force layoffs and disrupt the economy, millions of employees remain uncertain about their health, the health of their families, and if they’re even going to have jobs moving forward. For businesses that have stayed open amidst the pandemic shutdowns, work now looks very different, as it’s caused both leaders and teams to abandon how they’ve done things in the past and find creative ways to keep going.

This year, leaders have had to prioritize boosting employee morale, as well as keeping workers engaged and feeling safe. 2020 was essentially an exercise in crisis management. Leaders had to provide strong guidance, heightened communication and proactive initiative alongside a sense of levity and hope. It’s been a challenge to keep that level of guidance and encouragement high, but leaders now need to push through the fatigue to get their employees through the holidays.

Holidays are a time for connection, especially at a workplace, where there are end-of-the-year gatherings, holiday cookies to share in the breakroom, team activities to plan, a new year to look forward to, and that general anticipation of getting some time off to spend with family.

But this year, things have changed. How do you have a holiday season at your workplace while working remotely? And how can you keep employees feeling motivated and engaged when their traditional gatherings and times of celebration have been canceled?

Here are some strategies, both fun and thoughtful, to keep morale high in this altered holiday season.

1. Continue Communication and Feedback

Chances are you’ve already increased your frequency of communication this past year as a way of leading your team through the changes the pandemic has imposed. Our advice? Keep doing it. Continue to send email check-ins to keep your team updated on workplace news, both big and small, and let them know that you’re still there to offer support.

Questions prevail regarding personal health, job security and what the next year will hold, so consistent communication will help provide stability and let your employees know they work with people who care. If you’ve gotten away from frequent communication, pick it back up. In addition, encourage your employees to respond by allowing them to provide feedback on how the year went, or express any concerns, highlights or gratitudes.

2. Lead with Empathy

Employees are naturally worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills. They’ve been concerned about their family’s health, and may have been sick or have lost loved ones this year. They may have been juggling remote work while also guiding their kids through remote learning. They may be supporting family members who are out of work. Add in the societal and political tensions this year has brought, and your employees may be tired and stretched thin — and you may not have any idea of what they’re going through. As you communicate with them, keep empathy at the forefront. Acknowledge how tough of a year it’s been, how they’ve taken on more burden than usual and that you’re open to listening to their concerns.

3. Look Forward, Reflect, Recognize and Give Thanks

As well as empathizing with them, continue to lead the charge by providing hope, and continue to talk about the future. Provide some reflection on what the team has been able to accomplish this past year, despite the challenges. Recognize individual employees for their hard work and for their contributions to keep the workplace going. Regularly express gratitude and appreciation for everything that everyone’s accomplished – even if all they’ve done was to survive.

4. Hold a Remote Holiday Gathering

The end of the work year is a time for holiday gatherings – a time when people can catch up with colleagues they work with every day and those from other departments they rarely get to see. Often, coworkers get to spend time with other coworkers’ families and eat lots of catered food.

But not this year.

It’s practically impossible to simulate a holiday party virtually – at least one that everyone will enjoy. Instead, brainstorm ways to get your team together. Perhaps you schedule a virtual toast to the new year with a message from senior leadership, or hold an ugly sweater Zoom session with your own team.

Whatever you decide, be sure to keep virtual gatherings small if you want to encourage socializing, and provide a message of thanks and encouragement. And above all, acknowledge to your team that not having a holiday party is another loss for the year, but that there are still other ways to celebrate.

5. Have Some Fun

Come up with some ways to have some silly fun with your team! Here are a few ideas:

  • Send them hot cocoa recipes.
  • Facilitate a virtual cookie recipe exchange.
  • Email fun videos or holiday memes every morning for a week.
  • Challenge your team to “decorate” their Zoom background. Have them post pics of their decorated work-from-home spaces on a virtual chat.
  • Encourage people to share their favorite holiday movie or songs.

Reflective messages are wonderful this holiday season, however, some silliness is pretty much necessary to give some levity to the end of a tough year.

6. Band Together to Give

‘Tis the season for giving, and there are plenty of people and organizations who need donations, especially now. Even though you can’t get together for large-scale volunteer excursions right now, you can still give together. Pick a charity or organization to rally around. Your giving can be as big as giving money, toys or canned food, or as small as writing holiday cards to seniors or veterans.

7. Give Extra Time, Flexibility or a Bonus

If your company’s budget and schedule can handle it, see if you can reduce overall workload for your employees. Better yet, consider giving some extra paid time off to allow your team some rest at the end of a long season, or be extra lenient with flexible work requests. Consider providing some kind of monetary bonus to thank your staff, as well.

It’s All Up to You

In the end, it’s up to the managers, team leaders and directors to lift the morale of their employees, and lead with positivity, empathy and fun. This year has required creative ways of approaching work to keep employees engaged and increase morale. But remember: Efforts don’t end once the clock strikes January 1, as 2021 is going to require continued focus on keeping employees supported, encouraged and valued as society slowly approaches a post-pandemic “new normal.”

In the meantime, keep going… and Happy Holidays!

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